FRANKFURT, Oct 20 (Reuters) - Germany’s biggest trade union, IG Metall, elected a tough wage negotiator and trained economist as its new leader on Tuesday and its first woman as deputy.
Joerg Hofmann, 59, takes over from moderate Detlef Wetzel, who is retiring at the age of 62. Christiane Benner, 47, will become the most powerful woman in a German trade union.
“I‘m so proud to be able to stand here as the first woman in the top leadership of IG Metall,” she said, wiping away a tear as her election was announced at the engineering union’s four-yearly congress in Frankfurt.
IG Metall secured a wage increase of 3.4 percent this year for its 2.27 million members, the biggest hike for years. It represents workers at carmakers such as Volkswagen and industrial groups including Siemens.
Under Wetzel and his predecessor the engineering union has restored its standing after four years under hardliner Juergen Peters and reversed a membership decline, helped by a drive to recruit women and young people.
Hofmann, in a break with tradition, did not come up through the ranks of engineers but went into research and then became a full-time union official.
He is known for his precision and attention to detail in wage talks and promised this week to battle attempts by employers to erode union power by playing them off against one another and evading collective agreements through outsourcing.
Benner, who is responsible for IT and electronics workers in the union as well as target groups, was a union youth leader.
Hofmann was elected by 88 percent of delegates, with 8 percent voting against and 6 percent abstaining. Benner won 89 percent of votes, with 8 percent against and 3 percent abstaining. (Reporting by Georgina Prodhan and Ilona Wissenbach; Editing by Louise Ireland)